Second 'Chance': Mock, Receivers Win Gunfight

Fittingly and unflinchingly, it finally came down to Texas' most celebrated group of receivers on Senior Day, as well as to a former starting quarterback who unselfishly stepped aside five games ago but stepped up when everyone needed him most. After connecting with SE <B>Roy Williams </B>for 54 yards, QB <B>Chance Mock </B>found FL <B>B.J. Johnson</B> in the corner of the end zone on a 9-yard go route with 46 seconds left as the Longhorns out dueled Texas Tech, 43-40 at DKR Saturday.

This wild west shootout came down to the final gun as PK Keith Toogood’s 48-yard FG attempt was too-wide to the left as the too-close-for-comfort contest mercifully came to its conclusion.

"Too much drama for this game," Williams said afterwards.

Indeed, Saturday’s affair was high drama for two high flying offenses that entered Saturday’s track meet as two of college football’s top five scoring units. Just how cinematic was it? Consider this made-for-TV movie script:

Last home game of the season. Your teams needs a touchdown. You’re out of time outs. Two minutes left on the clock, and you’re staring at 84 yards of real estate. And off the bench comes the signalcaller who not has only has not started in five games, who not only has not barked a signal all night, but who dearly wants to hammer the school that he believes did his kin folks wrong.

"I was born in Lubbock and dad was coaching at Tech," Mock said. "He played at Tech. My brother went there. He wasn’t treated very fairly. To get a shot at it for him and for my dad, I just can’t describe it."

The post-touchdown celebration was a bittersweet blur for Mock. In fact, he described it as a "30-second gap" of which he remembers precious little.

"I was probably fighting back a few tears because this was very emotional for me," he said.

Mock humbly relinquished his starting spot to freshman phenom Vince Young ever since the Oct.18 Iowa State game. Three days before engineering the game-winning drive (and we‘ll call it the $10 million drive because that’s about how much BCS Bowl money Texas loses if Tech pulled the upset), teammate Brock Edwards chided Mock because reporters no longer requested interviews with the junior QB ever since Young took the starting spot last month.

"My role lately has been to help Vincent," Mock said, after reporters mobbed him in the victorious interview room, "and so to do that I have to stay totally focused on the ballgame. I felt like I had been in the whole time."

Young turned in an otherwise solid performance, hitting 16-of-25 passes for 213 yards and two TD while adding 53 yards on the ground. But Young was responsible for two INT that nearly cost Texas its BCS Bowl hopes, and was spotty in getting the ball to open receivers. No series better illustrates Young’s raw talent (with emphasis, this time, on raw) than on his last possession. Just before tossing his second pick of the night, Young badly overthrew Johnson when there was no one within 15 yards of him and nothing but green between himself and the end zone.

Previously, Mock had entered the game on Texas’ third offensive series. And that was still the plan Saturday until Mock actually (and, again, unselfishly) talked offensive coordinator Greg Davis out of his designated playing time.

"I felt like Vincent was hot and I didn’t want to stop the momentum," Mock said. "It was probably the hardest thing I have done since I’ve been here because I did want to play against Tech so bad. But he had the hot hand so I told (Davis) to stick with Vincent."

And that, head coach Mack Brown said, makes Mock "more of a hero at the end than you would have ever dreamed."

Now, if you ever hear me complain again about the way Brown has shuffled his quarterbacks, you need to give me your video tape of Mock’s final drive. This was a gutsy call and Brown would have been barbecued in chat rooms and radio call-in shows if it hadn’t worked. Coaches, however, praised Mock but dismissed the risk factor involved. After all, Mock reportedly runs the two-minute drill to perfection in practice every Thursday

Mock’s last-minute heroics is about the only thing that could have stolen the thunder on a soggy night from Texas' stellar group of senior receivers. The group, it appears, may have saved the best for last.

Williams led all receivers with 136 yards on eight receptions. SE Sloan Thomas, whose acrobatic, first-quarter TD grab was the catch of the day, would start for any team that did not have Roy Williams on it. Johnson, of course, came up with the clutch game-winner in the corner of the south end zone while Bo Scaife added 22 yards on two snags, including an 8-yard TD grab. All told, the four seniors accounted for 260 of Texas’ 287 passing yards.

"Sloan, coming up with the first catch, what a great play," Brown said. "B.J. making the play at the end of the game, I thought it was fitting. And Roy played as good as any receiver could tonight."

Meanwhile, another B.J. played with considerable courage and competence. Texas Tech QB B.J. Symons (reportedly playing with a badly strained ACL in his left knee) completed 32-of-56 for 365 yards, including two TD and no INT. His production was actually about 110 yards less than his NCAA leading game-day average.

RB Cedric Benson ran with a renewed determination that reminds of his dominating high school days. Benson was good for 142 yards on 24 carries, including two TD.

It was a Fiesta Bowl official who pointed out to me that Texas did not punt a single time during the shootout (Tech averaged 45 yards on three boots). That was a first during Brown’s two decades as head coach and the first time a Longhorn team did not punt the ball since a 20-15 home less to Miami in 1973.

The defense still needs work. The effort was obviously there, but just as obvious was Texas’ utter inability to stop draw plays, drag routes and to get pressure on the one-legged quarterback.

"They lead nation in passing and they’re a great offensive football team," defensive coordinator Carl Reese said. "The teams that have played them close were the teams that got turnovers. We had our hands on four but didn’t make one of those plays. The thing I don’t feel good about is we needed to get one of those turnovers and get our offense back on the field."

Moving at will, the Raiders initial series was like a continuation of last year’s setback in Lubbock. Tech opened with an 11-play, 80-yard TD drive kept alive when Symons connected with TE Mickey Peters for 16 yards on a crossing pattern when faced with a fourth-and-10 from the Longhorn 30. RB Taurean Henderson walked in untouched two plays later on a 5-yard sprint draw. But DT Marcus Tubbs got his large mitt on Toogood’s PAT attempt (the first of two blocked PAT tries). The visitors led 6-0 with 5:38 eclipsed in the opening frame.

Selvin Young’s 36-yard return from the one set the stage for Texas’ 7-play, 63-yard, right-back-at-ya retort. Vince Young’s right sideline pass to Williams was good for 14 and then, on first-and-10 from the Raider 41, the gifted QB flipped the ball to Johnson for a 32-yard gain. Two Benson runs netted one yard to the eight. But on third down, offensive coordinator Greg Davis got the memo that tight ends were eligible receivers as Young found Bo Scaife for the scoring toss. Texas led 7-6 with 5:30 remaining in the first quarter.

On third and 10 from the Texas 11, Symons found Peters on a 26-yard angle route. After Henderson reeled off 14 yards off a sprint draw, Tech was once again deep in Longhorn territory with a first down at the 34. But a surging Longhorn defense, combined with a procedure penalty, forced a 39-yard Alex Reyes punt.

Mixing runs and passes, Texas moved from its own 20 to the TTU 47 on the strength of William’s 11-yard grab and Johnson’s 12-yard sideline reception. Benson rushed over left end for 33 yards (his second longest run of the season) and would have scored had he not slipped on the wet turf. Facing third-and-20 from the Tech 24, SE Sloan Thomas made the grab of the game (and arguably of his career) when he collected a falling-down, TD pass in back of the end zone after tipping the ball to himself and just getting his right knee down for pay dirt. Following the 7-play. 80-yard drive, Texas lead 14-6 with 52 seconds eclipsed from the second quarter.

The defense actually forced a three-and-out after DE Tim Crowder batted away Symons' pass on third- and-6 from the UT 24.

Showing multiple formations and unleashing a bruising, time-chewing, ground game, Texas tallied its third TD in as many possessions following a 69-yard, 9-play drive. The drive included a 17-yard Benson dash before he barreled across the goal line from five yards out. Leading 21-6 with 10:21 remaining until intermission, the Texas rout was on. Right?

It certainly seemed that way when CB/PR Nathan Vasher’s returned an Alex Reyes punt 26 yards to the Red Raider 35. But Texas’ best field position of the first half yielded zero points.

Overcoming a bobbled snap and then a false start penalty, Young’s pump fake found Scaife for 14 on fourth-and six from the 31. But on fourth-and-one from the TTU eight, Texas passed up the chip shot FG attempt. Instead, Benson was stopped shy of the first down. Tech took over with 5:38 remaining and with its first shot of momentum since its opening drive. In fact, the Raiders arguably held the momentum for the rest of the contest, or at least dictated the tempo as the Horns started trading FGs for TDs.

Four minutes following the fourth-down stop, Symons connected with Peters on a 19-yard catch-and-run to complete the 9 play, 92 yard TD drive. Symon’s two-point conversion to X-receiver Nehemiah Glover made it 21-14. Texas actually collected two fumbles on the series, but an offsides penalty and a questionable officiating call nullified both recoveries.

But with 87 ticks until halftime, Young orchestrated a 46-yard, 9-play drive, starting with an 19-yard completion to Williams over the middle and ending with Dusty Mangum’s 46-yard FG as time expired. Texas took a 24-14 lead into the locker room (in what felt like the most tenuous 10-point lead in recent memory).

On Texas’s opening possession of the second half, Benson turned in the best, chain-moving two-yard gain you’ll see all year, but that was followed by Young’s poorest decision. Young hit FS Vincent Meeks right in the numbers, and suddenly the third-quarter bugaboo was again rearing its ugly head. When Symons hit BH Clay McGuire on a 24-yard TD toss, the 5-play 45-yard drive not only brought Tech to within 24-21 but set a new Big 12 record for TD passes at 46, breaking former teammate Kliff Kingsbury’s mark (not bad for a kid with a bandaged knee and just one season as a starter).

Tech shot itself in foot, committing successive personal foul penalties, on Texas’ next possession Benson collected 13 yards on a rocket toss but the drive stalled as the Horns settled for a 34-yard Mangum FG with 8:39 remaining in the third.

Ya’ woulda thunk the momentum had swung permanently to the Texas sideline after Vasher stuffed H receiver Wes Welker for a three-yard loss on fourth-and-2 at the Texas 39. The defensive stop set up Texas’ last TD for what felt like an eternity. With a first down at the Tech 11, Benson came up with his best run of the night. After running into a log jam, Bensons bounced outside and, with OT Jonathan Scott pushing from behind (Scott should be credited with an assist), Benson found daylight and darted into the end zone. After Young found the corner of the end zone on the two point conversion, Texas rebuilt its lead, 35-21, with 5:46 remaining in the third.

But Tech responded with a 13-play, 80-yard drive culminating with Symon’s 14-yard flag pass to Peters with 55 seconds left in the third. Now, Texas held a precarious 35-28 lead.

After Texas reached midfield on its next possession, DB Jamaal Jackson stepped in front of Young’s pass at the UT 5-yard line.

Symons never even got his shirt dirty as he moved the Raiders downfield, orchestrating a 13-play drive that ended with Henderson’s score on a draw play from four yards out. Yet MLB Brian Robison (Texas’ version of Spiderman with his amazing vertical leap) swatted away Toogood’s PAT attempt. Texas clung to a 35-34 margin, facing both a geeked-up Red Raider team and a game clock that refused to run.

"Everybody kept believing that guys could make plays," Vasher said.

Vasher’s belief system, however, would still be tested.

Facing fourth-and-8 from the Raider 35, Young fumbled following a 7-yard Adell Duckett sack. Suddenly, the upstart visitors were in business at their own 44 with 6:27 remaining. (At this point, the thing that boded well for Texas was the Raiders ability to score too fast).

Mock, meanwhile, began warming up on the sideline once Tech crossed midfield.

Faced with fourth-and-five from the Texas 26, Symons hooked up with Welker for eight yards on a crossing pattern. Henderson rushed over right end for eight more yards, setting up first-and-goal from the Longhorn 10. From there, Henderson carried it over virtually untouched on the same ol' draw play that the defense hadn’t stopped all night. For the first time since its opening possession, Tech took the lead at 40-35.

The game clock stood at 2:03. Mock entered the game for the first time.

"It’s hard to get the first, first down in that situation," Brown said. "When he threw the ball downfield (on second down) to Roy to get things started, what a great situation. And then making the two-point play because that puts the game in a position for a field goal."

Mock was 4-of-5 for 74 yards on that season-saving drive, adding 11 yards on the ground. Moments after Mock found B.J. in the corner of the end zone, the receiver knelt at that spot and lowered his head, presumably in prayer, moments before teammates collapsed on the senior who (fair or not) had developed a reputation last season for untimely drops.

This time Johnson held on, as did the post-season hopes of the resurgent Longhorns.

The seniors finished 21-2 at home and tied last year’s graduates for a school record 40-wins during a four-year stint. With the win, Texas is 9-2 on the season and has an open week before facing Texas A&M on November 28 (2:30 p.m, CST) on ABC.

And as for the Legend? He was the last one in the dressing room, taking a stroll down the west sidelines receiving Burnt Orange roses and the adulation of fans.

"I wanted to end on a good note," Williams said. "Our fans have been great to us, win or lose. There’s always some coaches in the stand, but we look past that. I went around thanking them."

No, Roy. Thank you!

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